Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Thunderbird Lodge at Tahoe

Thunderbird Lodge Front Door
We had a very interesting time visiting the Thunderbird lodge that’s close to Incline Village in north Lake Tahoe. It only took about a half an hour to get there from the Ritz/Northstar area. Fantastic place to see and hear about from very knowledgable docents who have quite interesting stories about George Whittell Jr, who began to build the estate in the 1936.

Lodge Lagoon
The Thunderbird Lodge is also known as the Whittell Estate and is a 6.51-acre waterfront estate located on the Northeast shore of Lake Tahoe. It was built as the summer home of George Whittell Jr, an heir to one of San Francisco's wealthiest families. 

Lakeside of Lodge
George’s family left him a huge fortune of $29 million dollars in cash, which today would be worth at least $50 billion. His father had been one of the founder’s of PG&E, a huge Northern California power company among many other businesses. Luckily, his father had been informed enough to sell all his stock holdings one week before the 1929 stock market crash. Following the economic collapse George was one of the wealthiest men in California.

Gazebo Picnic Area above Lagoon
When George Jr received his inheritance, he bought almost 40,000 acres of the and 20 miles of Nevada shoreline at Lake Tahoe and planned to develop it. Due to environmentalist pressures and other issues, eventually the state of Nevada pushed forward with eminent domain claims to take much of the land for a state park. 
Thunderbird Yacht Hosted Sinatra, Dean Martin, Howard Hughes
and many more Celebrities. 
In addition to the main house, the estate contained an "Elephant House"—home to “Mingo”, Whittell's two ton Indian Elephant. He also kept a full grown lion named “Bill” there for many years. The house itself was constructed of granite blocks that came from a 600 foot (180 m) underground passage complete with a dungeon in the house. There’s also a boathouse containing the 55-foot (17 m) wooden speedboat, the venerable Thunderbird yacht.
600 ft Granite Tunnel with Rail Tracks

Whittell Jr died in 1969 and much of the property went to the state or the US Forest Service. The Lodge is currently owned by the non-profit Thunderbird Preservation Society, and is now a popular tourist attraction. The tours are very interesting and are by reservation only. The stories about George Jr are totally fascinating.

Card Room for George and His Friends
The Thunderbird Lodge is one of the last and best examples of a great residential estate on Lake Tahoe from the period in which prominent San Francisco society built homes on the lake. The Thunderbird Lodge is an example of an approach to architectural design that is intended to be in harmony with it’s setting

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Donner Memorial State Park

 Pioneer Monument with 22 ft (6.7 m) of Snow Depth at the Top of the Shaft
We had a very interesting time visiting the Donner Memorial State Park while we were staying at the Ritz Tahoe. It’s only about a half hour up the road and definitely worth spending some time to see the actual area that the poor Donner party spent the horrible years 1846-1847. 

Emigrant Covered Wagon in Museum
It’s a brutal story and it’s estimated that about two hundred thousand visitors, mostly curious about the extremely unpleasant cannibalism facet of the Donner story, stop at the state park each year. What happened to those people is one of the most terrible stories of the Old West.

Face of this Rock formed the Fireplace of the Murphy Cabin
In April 1846, a group of Midwestern families left Independence, Missouri, bound for California. Their wagon train went pretty well over the Great Plains and through the Rockies, but was seriously delayed when a “shortcut” leading southwest up and through the Sierras where they were stopped by an early and brutal snowstorm. A breakdown in civilized behavior followed: the emigrants quarreled constantly; one man killed another; an old man was left on the trail to die.

Donner Creek

The severe snowstorm that prevented passage over the High Sierra forced the doomed Donner party to spend the winter near present-day Truckee. Forty-one of the 89 would-be settlers perished. When their provisions and oxen were consumed, the desperate emigrants were eventually forced to cannibalize their dead friends and relatives to try to stay alive.

There’s an interesting Emigrant Trail Museum and a short nature walk where you can see where some of the original cabins were stood. The Pioneer Monument is quite interesting too. The shaft of the moment shows the 22 foot depth of the snow. The Breen cabin originally stood near the monument.

Fun at Donner Lake
Donner Lake is a very beautiful place to just come and hangout. There’s boats to rent, trails to hike and beaches to swim from at the lovely lake.

Highly recommended!

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King's Beach Tahoe

King's Beach in Action
We had the perfect summer day at King’s Beach. We got to the beach pretty early but parking was still quite full. Somebody tried to block a space for his friend but we just moved the pylon and it was ours. It was even in the shade!

Story of Lake Tahoes Name
The beach itself is pretty nice. The sand is soft, with the exception of some pieces of wood from the surrounding trees. It does get hot walking around bare foot, so bring your flip flops. 
Relativly Quiet Area of the Beach
There's a wooden pier off to the side and lots of families bring or rent beach toys (giant water tricycles, rafts, jet skis, etc.). Off the beach there's a wooded area that provides lots of shade and there's several picnic benches. Even out of the way closer to the street, there's a paved path with benches along the way. Very nice summer scene.

This seems to be the main beach that everyone seems to go to, and with good reason. Its location is perfect for those staying in the Truckee area. About a15 minute drive from the Ritz. 

Highly recommended!

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The Ritz Carlton Tahoe

The Ritz Carlton Tahoe
Had a great time at the Ritz-Carlton Tahoe as a part of our summer trip. We Got a wonderful corner room on the club floor.

Corner Room on the Fifth Floor
Driving up to the Ritz was amazing. The view on approach is absolutely stunning. The hotel sits on the side of a mountain and looks like a huge rustic mansion that you would imagine in the Swiss Alps/Colorado. As we pulled in the service that the Ritz Carlton is known for is the next thing to be seen. The valet waved us in with a smile and a warm greeting. 

Ritz Bath
We got to the Ritz around 12pm and the room wasn’t quite ready so they gave us a magic key that got us into the club for a comfortable wait. When the room was ready, the manager brought us the keys and walked us to our nice corner room on the fifth floor. Really wonderful space that served as a great base for our summer experiences at both the Ritz and in the North Lake Tahoe area. 

Room 508

Manzanita Restaurant
View From the Room's Window
Then there’s the Manzanita Restaurant. This is the place to enjoy relaxing meals and very good drinks at the bar. Service and food are excellent and live up to the Ritz standards. They have good food selections on their menu and all the dishes were quite good. We’d always leave smiling after having wonderful food and a good time, especially the drinks with Ben the Bartender.

View From the Other Window

The Ritz Carlton Tahoe was a great summer experience and we can’t wait to get back and go skiing there in the winter.

Highly recommended!

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